I couldn’t visit D.C. without a Jose Andres experience (the renowned chef, one of my most admired, rules the roost in DC with six restaurants). I checked out Michelin and Big Gourmand winner Oyamel Cocina Mexicana (401 7th Street, Tel: 202-628-1005. www.oyamel.com), located steps from the National Gallery of Art and U.S Capitol. Modest on the outside, Oyamel is surprisingly cavernous, boasting an agave cellar, with vibrant colors and festive design, such as whimsical light fixtures and a Mexican marigold ceiling installation. The decor is a feast for the eyes, but obviously, the culinary creations are the main attraction. Andres is known for complex, molecular recipes, but the dishes here are more straight forward, yet still elevated. Think masa-tempura battered seasonal fish tacos (served with corn tortillas that are made in-house.) I was fortunate enough to try the Chile en Nogada, a traditional, seasonal Mexican dish atypically served in D.C. The roasted poblano pepper filled with shredded pork, pine nut, plantain and apple, covered in a creamy goat cheese and walnut sauce garnished with pomegranate and parsley, reminded me of the times I tried this rich and delicious dish in Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende.
The complete opposite of the colorful Oyamel, though equally memorable, is 1789 (1226 36th Street, Tel: 202-965-1789.
www.1789restaurant.com). The Old World, decades-old restaurant in Georgetown is a magnet to discerning locals and well-off, in-the know visitors. It’s one of few notable “fine dining” establishments with hard-to-get reservations in D.C. According to my waiter, every president (excluding George W Bush and the orange man) has dined at 1789 since it opened in 1960, and he was happy to point out the specific tables he served VIP guests, from Hilary Clinton to Barack Obama. In the dimly lit restaurant that includes six dining rooms in a renovated Federal-period house furnished with antiques, old paintings, and framed photos, guests are dressed to the nines, and waitstaff are buttoned up, with a sort of respect to the sophisticated experience, as well as the presidential history that resonates here. 1789 is perfect for a special occasion or date, or if you’re simply keen on exploring inventive dishes by executive chef Kyoo Eom, a Daniel Boulud protege. The butternut squash soup with coconut pan cotta, cranberry jam and toasted pumpkin seeds was my favorite, and the tender, roasted duck breast with Bourbon-apple cider glaze and braised cannelloni beans was creative and memorable.